Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Duck, Duck, Duck, Lose: The Flames Haunted History at the Honda Center

Heads, Carolina, Tails, California,
Somewhere greener, somewhere warmer,
Up in the mountains, down by the ocean,
Where? It don't matter, as long as we're goin',
Somewhere together. I've got a quarter,
Heads, Carolina, Tails, California.

The decision of where to go may not matter to country singer Jo Dee Messina. But if the Calgary Flames had a choice, I'm certain they'd put the coin back in their pocket and gladly head east to take their chances with the Carolina Hurricanes instead.

But alas, being the half-mountain/half-prairie town that we are, Calgary obviously finds itself residing in the Pacific Division and with that comes a couple mandatory trips each year to sunny California to visit NHL heavyweights: Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings.

All three have become harrowing buildings for NHL teams to visit but in particular, the Flames have a haunted history at the Honda Center in Anaheim that would make the house in Amityville Horror look like a McDonald's Playland.

The Skinny on 'The Streak'

Note: Story has been updated to include the 3-2 loss on Nov. 25, 2014.

There are several different ways to represent how bad Calgary's fortunes have been in Anaheim and you'll hear them all in the next 36 hours. However you choose to dissect it, the losing woes go back to when they weren't just Ducks, they were Mighty Ducks.
  • "19 losses in a row" - It's cold, it's harsh, but it's accurate. Since Calgary last won a regular season game in Anaheim over 10 years ago -- a 5-1 victory on Jan. 19, 2004, Anaheim has won 18 straight home games versus the Flames so that can only mean Calgary has lost 18 straight on the road. 
  • "Winless in their last 19 (0-14-5)" - This is the politically correct way to say it. "Winless" confirms the Flames didn't win but in the misleading world that is the glass-half-full skewed NHL standings, losses in overtime or a shootout aren't treated the same as other losses and get their very own column.
  • "One win in their last 29 (1-18-10)" - This extends Calgary's stretch of futility in Anaheim back to last century. Beginning with Anaheim's 5-1 win on Mar. 28, 1999, the Ducks have lost just once to the Flames in the last 28 regular season games on home ice. This stretch, which dates back further than the arrival of the shootout, includes three ties, four overtime losses and three shootout losses.

But, What About the Playoffs?

One thing that's always puzzled me yet is also the same in other sports is why playoff games -- despite their heightened importance, are rarely factored in when talking about team streaks, player streaks, player totals, etc. It's just the way it is.

Thus, you might forget that Calgary's actual last win in Anaheim was more recent than 11 seasons ago as previously mentioned. Instead, it came on Apr. 25, 2006, a 5-2 victory for the Flames in game three of the opening round Western Conference playoff series, which gave Calgary a 2-1 series lead. That was the year the Flames were seemingly destined to play Edmonton in round two in a revival of the Battle of Alberta, but then were shut out 3-0 in game seven at the Saddledome.

If you were to take that playoff series into consideration, which subsequently included Anaheim wins over the Flames in game four and game six at the Honda Center, the above stated numbers become a little different.
  • 18 losses in a row
  • Two wins in their last 32

Not as Bad as it Seems

No wins in 19, one in 29. It sure sounds pretty horrifying. It gives you the sense it's been complete domination by the Ducks but if you scratch below the surface, you'll see that the games have been a lot closer than you think.

Here are some interesting facts about the streak (regular season version only):
  • Nine of the last 11 visits have either ended in a shootout (3), overtime (2) or been one-goal games (4)
  • In seven of the last 10 games, Calgary has outshot the Ducks including a 34-29 edge in the first meeting on Nov. 25 this year, which ended up a 3-2 loss
  • Nine of the 17 losses during the 1-18-10 stretch have been by one goal

Over the duration of the streak, here are five of the most notable losses:

  • Mar. 2, 2012 - Leland Irving made 35 saves but he couldn't stop Ryan Getzlaf, who scores on a set-up from Corey Perry with 46 seconds left in the game to win it 3-2.
  • Feb. 6, 2012 - The 3-2 loss was decided in a shootout that lasted eight rounds. Perry and Olli Jokinen were the lone goal scorers after three shooters. Then Getzlaf and Jarome Iginla both missed. Then Bobby Ryan and Blair Jones both scored. Shooting seventh, Cam Fowler and TJ Brodie both were unsuccessful. As shooter No. 8, Niklas Hagman beat Miikka Kiprusoff to put the pressure on Calgary and Mikael Backlund was stopped by Jonas Hiller to finish it.
  • Mar. 20, 2011 - Flames led 4-3 late in the game but with Rene Bourque in the penalty box for interference, Teemu Selanne's power play goal tied it at 17:59 and Perry scored in overtime to give Anaheim a 5-4 win.
  • Jan. 17, 2010 - Calgary took a 4-3 lead to the third period but unanswered goals by Perry and Ryan on Curtis McElhinney gave the Ducks a 5-4 victory, despite being outshot 37-26.
  • Apr. 4, 2004 - In the game that started this 18-game funk, Calgary led 1-0 into the third but ended up falling 2-1 when Martin Skoula and Sergei Fedorov scored less than two minutes apart halfway through the final period.

Funk Fun Facts

Maybe "fun" isn't the most appropriate word but here is some trivia that accompanies this Anaheim-Calgary season series -- the games in Anaheim in particular.
  • 113 players have been a part of the current 19-game losing streak for Calgary. This includes assistant GM Craig Conroy (7 games) and assistant coach Martin Gelinas (1). Other blasts from the past include Denis Gauthier (1), Rhett Warrener (2), Bryan Marchment (2), Chris Simon (2) and Jason Wiemer (1).  
  • 12 goaltenders have appeared over these last 19 games -- Reto Berra, Brian Boucher, Jonas Hiller, Irving, Curtis Joseph, Henrik Karlsson, Kiprusoff, Joey MacDonald, McElhinney, Jamie McLennan, Karri Ramo and Roman Turek.
  • That one regular season win this century (Jan. 19, 2004) came with Iginla (ankle) and Kiprusoff (knee) both injured. The makeshift line-up that night included Lynn Loyns, Josh Green and Krzysztof Oliwa. The winning goalie was Turek (36 saves) and the goal scorers were Chris Clark, Gelinas, Green, Toni Lydman and Oleg Saprykin.
  • The losing streak has all come in the same building. It was originally called the Arrowhead Pond and became the Honda Center beginning in 2006-07.
  • It was in that same 2006-07 season that they became the Anaheim Ducks after being known previously as the somewhat ridiculous Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
  • In that 5-2 playoff win in 2006, Kiprusoff was the winning goalie (27 saves). Scoring for Calgary was Kristian Huselius, Chuck Kobasew, Daymond Langkow, Darren McCarty and Robyn Regehr.

Flames Current Roster - Baggage or No Baggage

Baggage - Games (losses) in Anaheim as a member of the Flames:
  • 13 - Mark Giordano
  • 10 - Curtis Glencross
  • 6 - Lance Bouma, Brodie
  • 5 - Matt Stajan, Backlund, 
  • - Jiri Hudler
  • 3 - Dennis Wideman, Joe Colborne, Kris Russell
  • 2 - Sean Monahan, Ladislav Smid
  • 1 - Ramo, David Jones, Paul Byron, Johnny Gaudreau, Josh Jooris, Jonas Hiller, Deryk Engelland, Brandon Bollig

No Baggage - Has never played a game in Anaheim
  • Joni Ortio
  • Tyler Wotherspoon

Bringing that Winning Feeling

While there is nobody still with the Flames from that 2006 playoffs team (or the 2003-04 regular season), there are a few players that have at least tasted victory in Anaheim in their previous stops.

Jonas Hiller leads the way, obviously. The Former Ducks goaltender has a 92-51-10 regular season record at the Honda Center with a 2.48 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and 14 shutouts.

Other players that have won in Anaheim with their previous teams:
  • 4 wins - Hudler, Russell
  • 3 wins - Smid
  • 1 win - Engelland (in which he scored a goal), Bollig, Wideman, Jones

Exorcising the Ghosts of Seasons Past

Calgary is playing like a brand new team this year. This is a fearless, invigorated group, who are achieving things no one thought possible and are either beating or giving tough teams a real stiff test. In particular, the Flames are riding the goaltending of Honda Center virgin Joni Ortio.

It would be a good time to shed this mental baggage with the Flames likely to play a lot of meaningful games with their division-rival in the coming years, maybe even another spring best-of-seven match-up at some point.


Recent Related Flames Reading
  • Two Ways To Look at "It's Not Sustainable" The analytics experts are out in full force these days. In their cross-hairs is the explanation-defying Calgary Flames, the should-be Connor McDavid contenders, who instead are contending for first place in the Western Conference. I explain that Calgary can't keep up it's current pace, but nor does it need to.
  • Flames Hockey Talk - The archive of my guest appearance on SiriusXM NHL Network Radio on November 19 when I joined Jim 'Boomer' Gordon and we talked about the Flames fast start and discussed that popular question: Is it sustainable?
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks, Right Side of the Standings - If the 2014-15 NHL season was an 80s movie, the Flames with Byron, Bouma and Jooris would be cast as the poor kids, up against the rich kids in Eberle, Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. So far, the poor kids are dating the gorgeous cheerleader.
  • Sweet 16: Sixteen Reasons for Flames Fans To Smile - Sixteen games into the season and the Calgary Flames are the talk of the NHL and so they should be with an improbable 9-5-2 record. Here are 16 reasons for Flames fans to enjoy this season's early success. 
  • Flames on a Roll: Buckle Up, Hang on Tight and Enjoy the Ride - Calgary is playing exciting, competitive and winning hockey. As a fan, isn't that what you signed up for? My examination of the Flames fast start includes reason for optimism, but mixed with realism. 

1 comment:

  1. How about that game where Getzlaf pulled the puck out of the net with his hand and it was somehow a no-goal? Or was that in Calgary?

    Curse of Teemu more than anything hopefully. Guy's stats must be insane vs the Flames over his career.